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Canada: Their Sharp Rise Across Sports (And What's Propelling It Forward)
The Great White North is *quickly* becoming much more than just a hockey country.
When you think of sports in Canada, you probably think of hockey.
Very rarely would someone deem Canada to be a “soccer country” or a “tennis powerhouse.”
But based on what we learned from 2022, Canada has a sporting landscape as diverse as its people.
A record 23 Canadians were on NBA opening-night rosters (the 2nd most represented country in the league, behind only the US).
And the Great White North is making strides across the sporting ecosystem.
Let’s Dive In 👇
The Growth Of Canadian Soccer
In the last 5 years, Canadian soccer has seen a meteoric rise as the country begins to invest heavily in both the men’s and women's national teams.
The climb began in 2020 when the women’s national team brought home a gold medal from the 2020 Tokyo Olympic games.
Fast forward to this past year, the men’s national team qualified for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, their first appearance in the tournament since 1986.
And check this out…
9.8 million viewers took in Canada’s defeat to Croatia making it the second most-watched sports broadcast of the year behind only Super Bowl LVI.
Soccer in Canada is not showing any signs of slowing down (potentially, it’s just getting started).
The fact Canada was chosen to join the US and Mexico as hosts for the 2026 FIFA World cup is further proof.
Canada’s Love Affair With The Bluejays
With Canada being home to only one professional baseball team, it’s not difficult to understand why the Toronto Bluejays are so popular across the nation.
Having said that, 2022 was a year like no other.
The Bluejays smashed several viewership records with an average of almost 900,000 Canadians tuning into games across the regular season.
This was a whopping 39% increase from the previous year.
And these aren't the only impressive numbers…
With an average home attendance of 32,763 — the Bluejays are the 7th highest in the MLB with a staggering 52% increase from its 2019 season.
The rebound of Canadian Football
The CFL has been a staple in Canadian sports history, but the last few years exposed issues the league has been sweeping under the rug for years.
The CFL lost a reported $80M during 2020 with many teams across the league losing between $10-20M dollars over the past 5 years.
But a rebound is on the horizon…
The CFL is starting to see a bounceback with the 2022 edition of the Grey Cup (equivalent to the Super Bowl) showing a viewership increase of 7% from the previous season.
Something to watch:
The CFL is now exploring a revised revenue-sharing model with its players as well as an expansion of international TV rights.
CFL “2.0” could be something to keep an eye on in 2023.
With a population of 14.5 million, Ontario would be the fifth-most-populous U.S. state behind California, Texas, Florida, and New York.
Pennsylvania, the current No. 5 boasts approximately 13 million residents and accumulated more than $500 million in legal gaming revenue in 2021.
Ontario is expected to generate approximately $800 million USD this year.
There were 628,000 active player accounts, according to iGO. Those players spend an average of USD $106 per month.
Deloitte Canada estimates the legalization of single-event sports betting in Canada could grow to close to CA$28 billion within five years.
Could that mean…
More Pro Teams in Canada?
Canada has one of the highest tax rates for individuals in the world (it’s a little bit over 53 percent in some provinces).
That can be a challenge for clubs to attract talent to Canada.
Most athletes would prefer to be stateside (especially if they reside in places like Texas and Florida that have no income taxes).
Canadian Tennis Makes Its Mark On The World
In 2022, Canadian tennis officially entered what is best described as a “golden era”.
Canada claimed its first-ever Davis cup, becoming the 16th nation to claim what is often referred to as the “World Cup of tennis”.
Canada would go on to add an ATP Cup — becoming the first country to win both the ATP Cup and Davis cup.
Along with the country's dominance in team play, a few individual performances stood out in 2022.
Felix Auger-Aliassime stole much of the spotlight taking down some of the highest-ranked players including No.1 Carlos Alcaraz, No.2 Rafael Nadal, and No.5 Novak Djokovic.
The National Bank Open in Toronto and Montreal saw a record amount of spectators at the tournament with 237,158 tickets sold over the 10-day span.
Youth Sports and Investments
Canada has over 600 sports companies, 11 of which are publicly listed. (as of December 2022).
And when you look at Canada’s grassroots programs, you begin to understand why hockey is so dominant.
There are youth coaches at the 10-U hockey level making $40-50k a year in Canada.
You don’t really find that anywhere else in the world.
2022 was a year where we saw many sports take off and solidify themselves into the hearts of Canadians.
It will be exciting to see what 2023 brings as Canada carves out an identity within the sporting landscape.
Safe to say Canada is no longer just a "hockey country".
Porter Grieve is a co-founder and CEO at Mercury — a collegiate fan experience platform that recently signed deals with Kentucky, Kansas, Villanova, and Clemson.
Fascinating convo touching on:
Rise of athlete-driven media
Raising $7.5M in a bad market
State of NIL and college sports
Marketing tricks he learned at AS Roma
Why companies should (or shouldn’t) focus on media
Check it out:
Thanks to Tobias Hyrich Krueger, founder of Athlete Era for his contribution to this briefing on Canada.
Have a great rest of your day.